Back to school meant something special for Peddie School athletes this year.
When Peddie athletes returned to campus on August 28 to begin training for the 2012 season, they brought to fruition a new school initiative aimed at community service.
Conceived by the school’s new athletic director, Marc Buchner, the initiative was a means for many athletic teams to participate in community clean-up projects as a group and dedicate a day during preseason to service in the community.
According to the school, Buchner empowered each team to identify its own project, allowing the students to develop their own community service missions. Students spread out around campus and into Hightstown to assist in various ways.
The field hockey team assisted Peddie’s groundskeeping staff by weeding the flower beds on and around center campus. The cross country teams collected garbage around the local trails they use for training.
“Our project was called ‘junk miles,’ which in running terms means miles that don’t count toward training,” said Peddie School senior Rhea Mody. “We picked up trash in the areas we train–around the loop, on the greenway, and at Etra Park, which was great because it made us realize that it’s easy to overlook trash in the places we train.”
The boys soccer team cleaned up the Peddie Lake shoreline from the turnpike to the waterfall downtown, picking up garbage on land and in the water. In addition, the boys hung several kestrel and screech owl houses.
The girls tennis team spent several hours at the Greater Goods Thrift Store in downtown Hightstown, where they helped unload, sort, and organize clothing and shoes.
Not only did the football team clean up around the shore of Assunpink Lake, but they also held a practice session with a local Pop Warner football team.
Peddie School Seniors Ben Newbury and Matt Smedley said they appreciated the bonding experience that the trip to Assunpink provided.
“I personally loved the trip,” said Smedley. “It helped the community and gave us a little adventure.”
“Although picking up trash is not the most thrilling activity, the experience really helped the team bond, which was especially good for the beginning of the season, when team chemistry is most important.” Newbury said. “We also felt good that we helped make Assunpink look as good as it should.”
The Hightstown Parks and Recreation Commission welcomed assistance from the girls soccer team in renovating a town park by scraping and painting a jungle gym.
“I think that this particular opportunity was so well-suited to our team because so many girls grew up on that fire truck and were so willing to give back,” said Peddie School senior Cat Tedeschi.
“We tackled the task at hand through team work and threw in some fun as always, so it was not just a way to subtly say thank you to the Hightstown community, but it was also a great team-bonding experience,” she continued.
Due to the initiative’s success, the school plans on making it an annual component of the fall sports pre-season.
“The introduction of designated community service efforts by our athletic teams was a great way for the athletes to bond with one another, while simultaneously giving back to both the Peddie and Hightstown communities,” said Buchner.
“The student-athletes shared a valuable experience, while contributing locally,” he continued. “We look forward to making this a traditional part of our pre-season program.”